Spoilers for books 1-13 and A Memory of Light to Chapter 8| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 14, A Memory of Light. This post covers chapter 1-8.
Eastward the Wind Blew
The wind blows across a dying landscape full of hungry and desperate people. It’s a reminder that even though things are tough for our protagonists, they’re even worse for the average joe. Unless victory brings with a reversal of all this famine and spoilage, the winners will be doing very little celebration and a lot of starvation.
The wind eventually ends up at Merillor, where Rand and Perrin are having a chat about old times, having a bit of a laugh. They go over to Balwer to get updates on tomorrow’s meeting – nothing major, everyone important is going to be there as expected.
Egwene goes to meet Elayne. Elayne mentions the lack of reports from Caemlyn, and she has sent someone to check, so she’s in for a big surprise pretty soon. For now, they discuss the seals. Egwene’s done a fair bit of research, and she doesn’t necessarily disagree with Rand’s plan – she just thinks that the seals should be broken at the right time, which she, not Rand, should decide. I’m sure they’ll figure out a compromise, because “And the forces of men killed each other even before the Last Battle began, and the Dark One said “Easy”” won’t make much of an ending to the series.
Just then a messenger arrives with news that Caemlyn is under attack. Elayne and Egwene immediately get to work – organising rescue and healing, scouting etc. Talmanes arrives – or rather, is carried through a gateway. Fortunately Nynaeve arrives on the scene, and Egwene directs her to Talmanes. Whew.
Rand and Perrin are still chatting. They discuss Rand’s plans for tomorrow, and Perrin tells him that he’ll support Rand in breaking the seals, but won’t have it done at the cost of dividing the forces of the Light. Rand agrees. They find about Caemlyn as well, but there’s not much for them to do directly, seeing as the city has already fallen, and it’s more of a damage control thing now. Rand does point out the taint could lead to their victory:
The taint is what made me mad and what gave me memories from my past life. They came as Lews Therin whispering to me. But that very insanity is the thing giving me the clues I need to win. Don’t you see? If I win this, it will be the taint itself that led to the Dark One’s fall.
What goes around…
The Choice of an Ajah
Pevara and Androl are talking about how screwed they are. It’s clear that their plot is going to be a regular thing. I’m sort of miffed about it. Not because it’s bad in itself, but because I feel like the final book is not a time to be adding plotlines. Now every time I see one of their POVs, I feel like can we get back to Rand/Mat/Egwene etc. already!
Still, their banter is fun to read as always. The clash of worldviews, one a male channeler, the other a Red.
“I suspect,” she said, “you have never tried jumping off a cliff before. The fact that you haven’t done something shouldn’t always be a reason to try it.”
“Actually, I have jumped off a cliff. Several of them.”
Ha! Or for something more though provoking:
“You have two choices, as an Ajah,” Androl continued. “You can either continue to hunt us—ignoring the proof that we offer, that the Source is cleansed—or you can give up on being Red Ajah.”
“Nonsense. Of all Ajahs, the Reds should be your greatest ally.”
“You exist to destroy us!”
“We exist to make certain that men who can channel do not accidentally hurt themselves or those around them. Would you not agree that is a purpose of the Black Tower as well?”
And Sanderson’s hand is quite noticeable here. This honest talk, people really sharing their feelings and stuff, is quite unlike what we’ve seen from the regular characters. I’m not complaining – it’s a change for the good.
Their conversation comes around to the taint. Androl offers to show Pevara that the taint is indeed gone, by way of forming a circle. Apparently when a man and a woman link, the man must take control of the circle. So Androl does. Pevara is pretty much convinced that there is no taint. Unfortunately, Androl is not used to so much Power, and he goes a bit overboard drawing it in, scaring Pevara, until he realises what he’s doing and breaks the circle.
And then Pevara does to him what Alanna did to Rand – bonding him without asking. But this time it doesn’t stop there. This time, Androl bonds her back and they end up with a super bond of sorts. It’s like the usual warder bond, but way more sensitive and deep. Typical Sanderson, doing all this crazy stuff with the magic. I’m loving it!
Aviendha is doing some good old Aiel sneaking, complete with entering and sitting down in Elayne’s tent without anyone noticing. They’re discussing the invasion of Caemlyn. Elayne plans to not attack the city, instead waiting for the Trollocs to leave before attacking them. And then she noticed Aviendha, just chilling there:
“Then go knowing my plan. We will begin sending in scouts before the night is through, trying to find pens of civilians to save, and Aviendha, what in the name of a bloody goat’s left stone are you doing!”
Once the other lords depart, the two sisters have a talk, but Aviendha keeps her visions in Rhuidean to herself.
A Dangerous Place
Androl and co. are hanging out at the local inn, listening to a Turned Welyn spout bullshit. As they’re about to leave, some of Taim’s cronies come and they do a Potter/Malfoy scene. Anrol is this close to lashing out, but he knows that he’s not worth anything in a fight, especially unable to make gateways, so they just bear it and slink away. But they also decide to try and rescue Logain.
Rand is working late into the night, preparing for tomorrow’s big meeting. He’s working on a document, probably the list of demands he’ll make tomorrow. Aviendha comes to meet him, and they have a conversation that treads the same ground again – Rand’s love of the three women and their acceptance of it, his giving them “pain” and them not giving a crap about it. I thought we took care of that in Caemlyn when Rand was bonded by the three. The ending is pretty hilarious though:
“Then it is well. We are your equals. You should know that I am a Wise One now.”
“Then perhaps we are not equals,” Rand said, “for I’ve only just begun to understand how little wisdom I possess.”
Aviendha sniffed. “Enough talk. You will bed me now.”
Androl and Pevara are having one of their talks, this time crouching in the dark, waiting to spring a trap. Their target arrives – Dobser, one of the Turned. In short order Pevara has him bound and shielded. But then two of his friends turn up as well, but Pevara saves the day with an admirable display of badassery, taking them down solo. While they wait for their co-conspirators, Androl and Pevara do more sharing.
The other arrive, including Emarin. I kind of feel we’ve come across him before.
Anyway, he interrogates Dobser, not with brute force but trickery. The end result is that they learn that Logain is held in the Tower’s foundations, where Taim has secret rooms.
Rand dreams, and ends up talking with Moridin. The latter spouts the same threats, the Dark One will win, I’ll kill everyone you love etc etc. But then Rand gives him a demo of his new powers, overriding Moridin’s dreamshard, returning the sun, turning the grass green, and Moridin runs away scared.
Meanwhile, Androl and co. have made their way to the hidden rooms in the Black Tower’s foundations, and make their way to Logain. But it’s a trap! They’re soon overwhelmed by unseen attackers, the roof falls down, and they go unconscious.
To Require a Boon
Rand wakes up from a night of making sweet love to Aviendha, and they have a fun morning showering together. Aviendha tells Rand that she’ll require a boon of him today, but doesn’t tell him what it will be.
Egwene wakes up, get ready and arrives for the big meeting. There’s a lot of chitchat, but I’m too impatient to linger on it. Rand arrives eventually, with the land itself heralding his coming. He sets up a tent in an impressive display of technical skill with the Power, and the meeting begins. First off there’s this rather cryptic conversation:
“Stop,” Rand said, raising a finger.
Roedran quieted immediately.
“Light burn me,” Rand said. “You’re not him, are you?”
“Who?” Roedran asked.
Rand turned away from him.
Rand begins well enough, saying that this time they need to be united against the shadow, not run around fighting their own little battles. And he wants there to be peace after he’s gone. Egwene says that he can’t force people not to fight. Turns out that’s exactly what Rand intends, bringing forth the document, called the Dragon’s Peace (ominous name). Basically, it prohibits the nations from fighting. While the rulers are fighting over this first demand, Egwene and Rand move on to fighting over the seals. The arguments are as expected – Rand wants to clear away the remains of the imperfect seal, Egwene is afraid it will lead to instant doom for the world. Things get heated, fast:
“I’ll fight you, Rand,” she whispered. “I won’t let you pull all of us into this. Listen to reason. The White Tower should be guiding you here.”
“I’ve known the White Tower’s guidance, Egwene,” he replied. “In a box, beaten each day.”
And then Rand presents his final demand – that he be the commander of the armies of the Light for the Last Battle. People are even more outraged. It’s a total mess.
Desperate, he pulls out his biggest threat – Rand threatens to not face the Dark One if they don’t agree, but Egwene calls his bluff. I’m despairing for any resolution at all, and Rand is about to leave the meeting, but then Moiraine appears.
And of course, the first words out of her mouth are “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.” Then she proceeds to resolve all arguments by quoting prophecies at everyone. Once she has the people convinced that Rand’s peace is the will of the Pattern itself, things calm down and they begin discussing the specifics of the agreement. The question is raised about who will enforce the peace, and Perrin has the brilliant idea to make the Aiel the peacekeepers, at once honouring them and giving them a purpose.
Then Moiraine convinces Rand to give up being the leader of the troops, and convinces Egwene to break the seals herself, when the time is “right”. Elayne, of all people, is assigned to be the commander in chief. The question of the Seanchan remains, but Rand promises to figure something out. The rulers sign, and finally we can turn our eyes to the real issues.
Lan, who’s been holding Tarvin’s gap all this while, finally decides to make one final suicidal charge instead of losing ground bit by bit, but then gateways open all over the place, and the Borderlanders charge in to save the day – for now.
Into The Thick of It
Elayne exits from the meeting to find the place covered with huge stedding trees, courtesy Rand. But there’s no time to stand gawking. She has maps and stuff brought, and begins planning the Last bloody Battle!
How does one approach a task so huge? By dividing it into manageable chunks. They identify the major battlefronts – Kandor, Tarvin’s Gap, Caemlyn and Shayol Ghul itself. Four battles, four great captains. They assign Bryne and the White Tower to hold the Trollocs in Kandor, Agelmar and the Borderlanders to hold Tarvin’s Gap, the Aiel and Ituralde to be with Rand when he does decide to move, and the majority of their forces with Elayne and Bashere at Caemlyn. While the others hold the shadow back, Elayne is to quickly and decisively destroy the Trollocs in Andor, and then they can turn their attention to other fronts.
A simple enough plan – the best ones usually are. But unless they can get the Waygate in Caemlyn down fast, I’m afraid it is not going to work. And their attempts to do that have so far failed.
Anyway, Elayne emerges from the planning to find singing. It’s not any song, but something special. For a moment I wonder if it’s the song that the Tinker’s seek (though that’s probably not a literal song they seek), but it’s the Ogier. Their big meeting is done too, and they’ve decided that in fact it would suck for the Dark One to wreck everything, and so they’re here to help. All the Ogier will be participating in the Last Battle. Good job Loial!
Elayne wants Perrin to be in charge of supplies, which feels rather stupid to me, because this guy is a badass warrior with a sick hammer, not a freaking clerk. Plus Rand needs him, so he convinces Elayne to give the job to Faile. Nepotism! Just kidding. Elayne also gives Faile the duty of seeing the Horn of Valere sent to Mat in secret, hiding it among supply wagons and stuff. Um, ever heard of a little something called gateways? Just keep it hidden until you run across Mat, then fetch it in like two seconds. All this cloak and dagger business is pretty unnecessary.
Elayne and her forces then arrive near Caemlyn. Yep, the city is toast. They plan to draw out the Trollocs, into Braem Wood, where their archers and Aiel will be highly effective. Elayne and Bashere talk while preparations are made. He wants her to make it public that her babies are Rand’s, she agrees after a bit of convincing. Then it’s time to set fire to the basements her people have filled with oil and pitch, and soon Caemlyn is aflame once more.
Androl awakes to find himself and the others captive. Taim is there too with his cronies. They’re turning people, and frustrated with Logain’s resistance, picks one of the younger captives to be Turned. I’d be worried, but Min’s viewing about Logain’s glory is yet to come about, so I’m pretty sure he’ll make it through, and Androl and Pevara with him. The rest… well some of them will end up getting Turned, starting with Evin. Poor guys. Meanwhile, Pevara and Androl are able to use their bond as a sort of telepathy. Very useful in their situation.
Well this was a lot of “calm before the storm” stuff. I liked the nice chit-chatty parts. Good to see the protagonists having a semi-good time before everything goes to shit.
But I have to say, this Last Battle doesn’t feel last enough yet. I mean, yes, it’s a huge war all over the place with lots of people and Trollocs, but it doesn’t have that element of desperation that I expected. It’s more like Trollocs Wars II than the last stand of humanity. No doubt the Shadow has some nasty surprises for our protagonists, and then I’ll be regretting saying all this when things turn really bad for real.
And despite Bryne praising her, I’m not entirely sold on Elayne as the ultimate commander for the Last Battle. But I also can’t come up with a suitable candidate. Maybe Mat – if they manage to convince him, that is. Where is that man anyway? Why didn’t he arrive with Moiraine?
Finally, who are the two women on the cover? I guess they’re the two with whom Rand links while using Callandor, for which my guess would be Nynaeve and Moiraine.The Blue would then be Moiraine, but the other one has no braid! This is not a request for spoilery answers. Just wondering.